Lawyers can't sell! - Law Training Centre

'Lawyers can't sell!'​
Busting the myth and selling tips for the modern lawyer

Although much has been written and said to the effect that lawyers make difficult sales people, there is little to back the assertion, yet much to be gained from proving it to be misleading.

What is there to be gained? New business.

Selling is about developing business for the whole legal organisation: not only the business you do but that of your colleagues too.

Barriers to selling that lawyers have raised include:

1. I don’t know how to sell

‘Firstly, I didn’t study law to work as a salesperson. Secondly, in-house lawyers loathe pushy sales pitches’.

Statement one is foolhardy: engineers don’t study engineering to be sales people, architects don’t study architecture to be sales people… but both groups need to develop new business – the same applies to lawyers.

Statement two mispresents how lawyers should approach the business of selling, which is to do it softly.

2. I don’t know what other lawyers in my practice do

Please find out. If you’re a law firm manager, educate your staff in terms of what their colleagues offer. Many firms run cross-selling forums, where the relationship partner describes the client and outlines the opportunities to grow the relationship. Team members list the contacts they have at the client.

3. I’m not compensated to cross-sell

It’s a shame if this is truly the case. If there are no incentives to market the organisation’s services, then lawyers confine themselves just to doing what’s required purely in terms of billable hours. However, if the team effort required for cross-selling is rewarded by public acclaim and in individual compensation reviews, lawyers will respond accordingly.

4. Clients are in control of matters

Even if that was always the case, which it isn’t, is that any reason not to promote to them? Likewise, the assertion that clients respect professionalism and expertise (and not flashy, trashy sales techniques) only holds water if sales techniques are flashy and trashy, neither of which are axiomatic.

5. We’re analytical and cautious – sales people are imprecise and risky

You’re being asked to be a lawyer who uses selling skills and not be a 100 % “sales personality” – there’s a difference.

The alternative view: lawyers can make good sales people

Lawyers “sell” to judges, counsel and juries – so why not clients? It’s just a different style of selling that’s required.

Key sales questions to ask new, existing and potential clients

  • What are we doing well? EXISTING CLIENTS
  • What could we be doing better? EXISTING CLIENTS
  • What is going on in your business that we should be thinking about? EXISTING CLIENTS and NEW CLIENTS/POTENTIAL
  • The last question is vital. You inquire into a client’s business challenges and offer solutions. Establish as many points of contact between the firms and the clients as possible.
  • Sales behaviour

  • DON’T: rely on “great work + the client contacting you” to grow your business.
  • DON’T: rely on just talking your way to a sale.
  • DO: listen actively to your clients.
  • DO: listen actively to your clients: fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.
  • Establish rapport, build trust
  • Demonstrate concern
  • Paraphrase to show your understanding
  • Use positive body language such as nodding, eye contact, and leaning forward.
  • Use brief, empathetic verbal affirmations such “I see,” “Sure,” “I know” and “I understand.”
  • Leverage speeches you give and articles you write

    Writing an article for a trade publication that’s likely to be read by your clients? Mail it your clients and prospects.

    Giving a speech? Contact those you say they will attend. Say:

    “I notice you’re attending my presentation. I’d love to chat to you on the day. Is there anything that you’re interested in that you’d like me to include?”

    Or contact the delegates afterwards and say: “Thanks for attending my presentation. I’d love to hear your view of the issues I discussed. I’d also like to learn about your business.


    DIPADA is a way of structuring selling that is based on identifying and solving a client’s problem.

    D = Define your prospect’s needs or problems

    I = Identify your solutions to them

    P = Prove that your solution is the right one using evidence and benefits, e.g. from testimonials or describing what you and your colleagues have done for others

    A = Gain your client’s acceptance of your solution

    D = Create desire for your solution, engaging your client’s emotions

    A = Action. Get your client to hire you.